Lords of Dogtown

Stacy Peralta made a slamming 2001 documentary, Dogtown and Z-Boys, about the Zephyr skateboarders from Venice, California, who revolutionized the sport in the 1970s. Now Peralta, one of the original Z-Boys, goes Hollywood on himself by recasting his doc as a feature film. His script, directed with vigor and wit by Catherine Hardwicke — best known for tracking the extreme sport of teen sex in Thirteen — interjects a love triangle, a drug trauma and several identity crises. But the film grabs you hard as Peralta (John Robinson), Jay Adams (Emile Hirsch) and Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk) move from surf to street, practice in drained swimming pools and get famous and fucked up for doing what they love.

Hardwicke whips up a frenzy of crazy-cool board action, with Alva choreographing the stunts. Even when the slippery-slope-of-success cliches halt the film's momentum, the ready-to-rock actors rev it up again. Heath Ledger is flamboyantly funny and alive as Z-Boys guru Skip Engblom. Don't freak that Rasuk, Robinson and Hirsch have skating doubles: Their performances cut deep, putting a human face on a dazzling daredevil ride.

From The Archives Issue 367: April 15, 1982